October Volunteers have an elephantine experience…here, there and everywhere elephants.

"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society has a really good group of people that put their all into making a difference. It’s a team and a family a

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"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society has a really good group of people that put their all into making a difference. It’s a team and a family and I’m so happy for the 4 weeks I was there that I got to be a part of that family. This whole experience has been so beneficial for me and I can’t wait to come back, (maybe even to work?)!" Carley Scholter, U.S.A.

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

Friday, October 25th 2019

Afternoon

All Volunteers

Everyone went to the national park. It was amazing! We saw loads of elephants and they were just metres away from us! We made some incredible observations.

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS

August Volunteers wrap up the Summer with their experiences

"I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you al

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"I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you all for a wonderful volunteer experience." Emma Lancaster, USA

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Aurélie (Lily) Coste Chareyre
France

Three words: I loved it. This project brings me a lot of things as on human level as on an animal level. I discovered a new world which is especially what I wanted. I had never volunteered in my life and this was the perfect start; I am sure I will do another one later, perhaps medical volunteering as I am in the medical field.

The staff were lovely, always taking care of the volunteers. The field house was full of life, I very much enjoyed our card game night.

I am just disappointed I didn’t see the “elephant bus” because of holidays.

Thank you very much for these 2 weeks, I have in my head many memories which I will never forget.

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Scott Howells
Wales

What a great introduction for me into the world of volunteering! Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The work you guys are doing here is inspirational; I can see the passion you all have for the project and animal conservation as a whole.

The daily activities we’ve taken part in showed me just how much time and effort go into achieving your goals. In just 2 weeks I have learnt a massive amount about the behaviour patterns of elephants and the issues that are faced as a result of elephant/human conflict. I am also the best Data Recorder that has ever volunteered – fact.

Everyone has been so kind and welcoming. The boys are hilarious and made some of the longer stretches out in the field much more enjoyable with jokes and games to keep morale up. It was great to talk to Chandima and gain a better understanding about what the goals of the project are and what issues you face day to day. Alicia = Legend. She made the 2 weeks doubly enjoyable with her banter, happy personality and kindness.

Summed up, I had an amazing time. Maybe one day I’ll come back if you’re lucky!

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Christopher Sangster
England

The elephant conservation project is a fantastic example of an ethical project that provides a perfect opportunity for volunteers to feel like they are making a real difference without causing harm or exploiting the locals. Wildlife is treated with respect and volunteers must remain at a respectful distance, and the activities the Society are involved in all provide benefits for local farmers as well as improving the situation for wildlife.

The accommodation is simple but provides everything you need. Having a central communal area where everyone can sit and chat or play games makes it easy to socialise. There are fantastic views of the surrounding area, especially at sunrise and sunset, and the resident dog and cats are friendly, especially if you’re eating food.

The field guides are all very friendly and make even the more mundane tasks enjoyable through their jokes and playfulness. They are knowledgeable with regard to wildlife and wiling to answer questions, making the activities even more rewarding. There is also some excellent music played in the field house.

There are a good range of activities, meaning that things never become repetitive. It is worth staying for more than one week to ensure that each activity is experienced more than once, as each day is slightly different. For example, I was able to be involved in planting orange trees at the beginning of my time on the project, then on my last day we travelled round several farms to examine trees that had been planted earlier. Seeing different stages of the various projects was highly rewarding.

Overall, I highly enjoyed my time on the project and my only wish is that I could have stayed longer. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in wildlife conservation, or just a love of elephants generally.

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Todd Soyck
USA

The three weeks at the Elephant Project have gone by quickly. What I valued most about the project was the work we did that was geared towards reducing human/elephant conflict. Project Orange Elephant—both planting and monitoring the orange tree saplings—was a rewarding experience. While at times the work was hard, never was I asked to do any more than I could handle and plenty of breaks were allowed during the hot part of the day. Of course, monitoring the elephants in the afternoon and early evening was always a joy.

As for the staff they were helpful, friendly and fun all at the same time. Questions about things were handled very well by those in charge. Also, they were very good about looking after our welfare when it came to health issues.

The food was adequate as to expectations. The accommodations, while a bit simple, were also adequate to meet my immediate needs for sleep and hygiene.

Overall, I met some very nice people, learned a lot about the fauna and culture of Sri Lanka and enjoyed my stay very much.

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Eileen Schildberg
Germany

You can have a lot of fun in the SLWCS if you get involved with the project and the people and do not be afraid of getting a little dirty. They take care of the volunteers very well, the staff is lovely and everything is always clean and the food is very delicious. In addition, there is always a contact person on site if you need help.

I learned a lot about the animals, the work here and about the culture. I really enjoyed seeing how dedicated the whole team is to helping people and animals on the ground. But I was most fascinated by the Project Orange Elephant, which found out that elephants do not eat oranges and they try to avoid damage. Also it was always nice to see the elephants in real nature every day.

I stayed in this project for 2 weeks, but would recommend to anyone if it is possible to stay longer. I spend a wonderful time here, which I will not forget. The filed house becomes your own family, your own home. I will miss the time here very much and if I have the opportunity I would come again.

Many thanks to the wonderful team.

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Emma Lancaster
USA

I heard about this volunteer program through my friend Rae, who discovered it through IVHQ. I read up on the program, and really liked the idea of volunteering in wild elephant conservation in a non-invasive way.

I genuinely enjoyed everything about the volunteer program here. It was really nice to have a variety of different activities every week, and the same routine of elephant observation at night. I also really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to do more work if you wanted to help further. I got a chance to help with elephant ID’s a few times in the afternoons, and it was not only fun, but really useful for me to learn about the process of IDing and the techniques to distinguish elephants apart. I am really happy that I had the opportunity to help out with this, and I just wish I could have done more!

I loved the variety of projects each week – dung analysis, pugmark surveys, fence monitoring, and project orange I liked especially, although I think my favourite project was the dung analysis!! It was nice that the volunteers were given the opportunity to do the data collection and recording. I felt like doing this, I was able to learn a bit more about the processes behind the research and I felt more involved.

The elephant observations were also really nice. Even on the days where we didn’t see any elephants, I still had so much fun riding in the jeeps and hanging out with everybody. I also got a chance to practice Sinhala during this time!

The staff is amazing!! I got along with all of them really well. Alicia is very nice and friendly, and helped me get involved with the elephant ID’s which was super awesome! The other staff members are hilarious (Siria especially), and they were always more than happy to teach me new things about the work, and Sinhala words. There was never a dull moment here thanks to the staff; they all made me feel like I was at home!

The food here was delicious and not too spicy. I never got sick of the meals, although it was nice being able to stop in town once a week to get snacks to feed my chocolate cravings.

Overall, I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you all for a wonderful volunteer experience 

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Horsfield Family: Michelle, Paul & Ruari and Toby kids aged 10 & 12
UK

We booked to come as we wanted to do something together as a family experiencing a new culture and gaining some personal satisfaction from contributing to a worthwhile project. We have grown together and as parents we’ve enjoyed seeing how our kids operate with other adults in a communal setting like this. We have enjoyed meeting the staff who live locally and eating the tasty food so well prepared by Leela Ratuna.

It has been overall a great adventure and we have all learned a lot; roughing it in dorms is all part of the charm; the boys have loved the endless games of Uno in the evenings and we’ve learnt a lot about the human elephant conflict issue here.

Good luck with the future and we all wish you well.

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Jamie and Frances Clough-Murray
UK

We have had an amazing time doing what we like to do best, watch wildlife in its natural habitat.

The staff were really friendly and accommodating. Alicia is a perfect volunteer coordinator, enthusiastic, always happy to listen and help with everything including the weekends. The Field Scouts are really friendly and can get there point over without speaking much English (which is better than my non existent Sinhala). Siriya is an amazing guide and always finds a way to lighten the mood if its down, which is a real asset.

The small dorm style rooms are basic but work really well, and the fans are a god send, we have had much worse on other volunteer projects.

The morning activities are nice and varied and we felt like we are making small contributions to a larger picture. We missed out on going out on the Ellie-bus due to school holidays, which might have been nice.

The elephant observations from an Elephant perspective is really good, informative and quite exciting.

Frances – (Wanted to do her own review also)

I’ve had a wonderful time. The staff are really helpful. You may have to play charades but it always seems to work. The Field Scouts are great and such fun. Alicia the volunteer coordinator is so friendly as well as helpful. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure you have the best possible experience.

The food can be a bit spicy but I’m a wuss with spice. Siriya is so good at making the mood lighter, making us laugh, teaching us the local games and local words like numbers and animal names. I’ve laughed every single day. Loved helping plant the orange trees to help farmers or prep the butterfly garden. All the activities are aimed at increasing knowledge or helping people in order to protect the elephants.

I haven’t been able to go on the EleBus due to school holidays. The staff have helped to plan and book activities for the weekends off. The other volunteers are cool too. All in all just come join in and enjoy. I absolutely loved it!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

Volunteer Anna from Scotland is inspired by Project Orange Elephant

"When I found the SLWCS I was really excited to know I would be genuinely contributing to a sustainable conservation effort that will help secure a fu

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"When I found the SLWCS I was really excited to know I would be genuinely contributing to a sustainable conservation effort that will help secure a future for the elephant population.” Anna Fredlander, Scotland

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Anna with newly bagged grafted orange plants

Anna Fredlander is from Edinburgh, Scotland and she is volunteering with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society for 4 weeks. In her own words, Anna has always being fascinated by elephants, watching documentaries about them and bringing petitions to school to try and help the movement to save them from the threats they face.

“I have always dreamed of volunteering, to physically help with the conservation efforts, and I have previously looked into doing this at “elephant sanctuaries” but encountered struggles with the ethical values at some of these places. When I found the SLWCS I was really excited to know I would be genuinely contributing to a sustainable conservation effort that will help secure a future for the elephant population.”

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Chandima explaining to the volunteers about POE

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Working on Project Orange Elephant

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Anna Fredlander
Edinburgh, Scotland
August 2019

During my time at SLWCS my favourite morning activity has definitely been Project Orange Elephant. I had read about the project before coming to volunteer here in Sri Lanka, and had hoped I would have the opportunity to get involved, so I was really excited when I found we would be planting orange trees on my first day! I have really enjoyed doing the other activities, which are centred around collecting data on the animal populations in the area, and clearing the area for the butterfly garden at the Field House, but Project Orange Elephant is particularly special for me as I feel like I am directly contributing to creating a solution to the human-elephant conflict that exists in the area.

This issue was the main thing that drew me to SLWCS as an organisation, as helping people to live happily alongside the elephants is what will ensure their safety. As long as elephants pose a threat to people’s livelihood, neither elephants or people are safe from conflict. Project Orange Elephant completely encompasses the innovative and respectful way in which SLWCS is trying to solve this problem.

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Mixing soil for the orange plants

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The POE Crew

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Weeding the Orange plants

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Chathuranga at one of the POE farms with a group of visitors

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The project involves giving orange trees to farmers who are not protected from elephants by the electric fence that currently surrounds many of the farms. We plant the trees around the crop fields, as elephants do not like the smell of citrus, so the orange trees act as a biological fence, their smell overpowering that of the crops within and deterring the elephants. It was really interesting going to a farm to plant the trees and take care of them, as it has given me a direct insight into the lives of the farmers who share this land with the elephants.

It is fulfilling to feel that we are protecting the farmers and their livelihood from the elephants, while giving them another source of income, and all without posing any threat to the elephants or placing any man-made structure into the environment. It is amazing to be part of this project, to watch it take shape and imagine it becoming the norm as it starts to take effect.

It completely symbolises the type of solution we should be striving to create in all areas of environmental conflict: a solution that educates people about the issue and allows them to benefit from the solution, so that they are happy to protect our environment and the animals that share it with us, rather than feeling threatened by it.

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Creating a new source of primary income for farmers

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chathuranga Dharmarathne/SLWCS
Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS

September Volunteers in Action in the Field

"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society is outstanding to say the least. My experience here in Wasgamuwa has been amazing. A lover of elephants m

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"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society is outstanding to say the least. My experience here in Wasgamuwa has been amazing. A lover of elephants my whole life, this opportunity has finally provided me with the ultimate satisfaction of enjoying wild elephants in their natural habitat. I felt like I needed to give back to elephants since I tell everyone I love them so much. SLWCS gave me a fulfilment to that goal." Kyle Brian, U.S.A.

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

Tuesday, September 3rd 2019

Morning

Team: David, Antonia, Beate and Julia

First activity was checking and resetting the sand traps. Volunteers' had a great time seeing sloth bear, wild boar and even leopard prints in the sand traps

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers.

One adult male elephant was spotted at Weheragala Tank at 17.51. The families must have moved on! We will monitor this area for the rest of the week.

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Thursday, September 5th

Morning

Team 1: David, Antonia, Beate and Carley

Worked on POE at Pussellayaya. Over 90 plants to weed and create condition reports. Very tough for only 4 volunteers. Most plants were in very good condition. Some volunteers cooled off in the lake.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

All the volunteers went to the National Park. Some elephants came very close to the vehicles, as well as a family group towards the end of the safari.

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Friday, September 6th

Morning

Team: David, Antonia, Beate and Carley

Fence monitoring at Weheragala. It was a very hot day so we took our time including many water breaks. Some recent elephant activity noted, while also smelling the musky odor of an elephant in musth! Elephants were close at one point so we moved quickly past them.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

Observations at the Weheragala Tank, where there were 2 males bathing in the tank. A family of elephants came out near Goda-ulpatha at 16.30 with at least 30 elephants.

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Monday, September 9th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

Re-potting grafted orange plants. We re-potted over 30 plants with the staff and two volunteers. It was a very hot morning with watermelon juice as a refreshment.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

At Weheragala Tank there was a family of 9, and two individual males. A van of Sri Lankans playing loud music came by and drove right up to the elephants, scaring them away.

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Tuesday, September 10th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

Dung analysis at Weheragala Tank. Because there has been a lot of activity in the area, we wanted to analyse their health. Twenty five percent of 20 piles of dung had plastic in it, showing that they’re feeding at the trash site.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

At Weheragala Tank there was around 30 elephants, but slightly out of view. However, some adults came to the water eventually.

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Plastic and glass in elephant dung.

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Wednesday, September 11th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

Pugmark analysis in the paddy fields. Because of the lack of rain, it was difficult to spot prints. This being said, we did find 6 prints and identified them as jungle cats (Felis chaus).

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

It was a slow start to elephant observation today, however after driving through Goda-ulpatha and Madupitya we finally spotted one near the tree hut forest. A bachelor group of 4 males made their way across the water to the other side of Weheragala Tank.

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Thursday, September 12th

Morning

Team: Beate (Shanae stayed home in the morning as she had some news from home she had to deal with.)

This morning because we only had one volunteer we changed the SD cards in the forest (with Beart staying in the vehicle when it was too dangerous). It was an exciting morning.

Afternoon

Team: Beate & Shanae

At Madupitiya there were about 20 elephants which were coming close to the jeeps. At 5 pm there was a very close bang probably from a thunder flash which scared the elephants away. We waited at the Tree Hut forest and they came by nice and close again! Great afternoon.

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Friday, September 13th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

This mornings activity was fence monitoring on the other side of Weheragala. It was a very steep hike where the volunteers found it hard. However we finished as a team and were very proud.

Afternoon

Team: Team: Beate and Shanae

Elephant observation in Weheragala Tank. It started raining very hard at about 5pm. From there we spotted a group at the other side of the lake and headed over to watch them roll and slide in the mud!

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Monday, September 23rd

Morning

Team: Gary and Petra

This morning volunteers and staff cleared trees in the butterfly garden. The area is looking great and we can probably start planting trees soon.

Afternoon

Team: Gary, Petra & Jennifer (arrived in afternoon)

It started to rain just as we were leaving for elephant observation. No elephants were observed despite waiting for them.

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Tuesday, September 24th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

Pug mark survey in Meda Ela. Because of the rain last night there were some good prints to measure. Back at the field house, a truck of 2500 orange plants arrived. Staff and volunteers unloaded them all before lunch.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

Volunteers went on the Ele-Bus as it is likely there will be no elephants again in the evening. Another load of 2500 orange trees is coming so instead of observation, everyone is needed to help to finish unloading before sundown.

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Wednesday, September 25th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

Dung analysis was conducted in Naminigama which hadn’t been analysed for a while. There were a lot of footprints however not much dung. We also smelled an elephant and moved quickly through the area.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

It started raining after lunch and didn’t back off. We went out to do elephant observations, but it continued raining. No elephants were observed.

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Thursday, September 26th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

Today was orange plant distribution day. Motorbikes, push bikes, scooters, tuk tuks, wheelbarrows and tractors with trailers were bought to the field house to collect orange plants. We distributed all of the 5000 orange plants.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

Volunteers went to the national park. While it was not possible to observe elephants we had an exciting spotting of a leopard. These cats are so illusive and we were extremely lucky to to spot one!

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Friday, September 27th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

At the start of fence monitoring in Himbiliyakada we saw elephant prints. We spoke to a local farmer who said there was one this morning by the fence. We also heard it in the forest so we moved quickly and quietly along the fence. It was well maintained.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

After a week of no elephants, our hopes weren’t high going into the afternoon observation. Luckily, as soon as we arrived there was a family in the tree hut forest! One older female kept mock charging the vehicle whenever a motorbike went past. It was a very eventful observation!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS
Chinthaka Weerasinghe/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

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